At the workplace, safety is always an issue. But safety around electrical equipment is of particular importance. Every year, around 1,000 people are killed in accidents involving electricity. Even relatively low voltages can be dangerous. Over half of these deaths occur in cases where the voltage was under 600 V, even 50 V can prove fatal in certain situations. In Illinois and throughout the U.S., electrical accidents are the most common kind of fatal workplace accident. However, employers and workers can take some steps to minimize the risks of working with electrical equipment.
De-energizing a circuit is the best way to prevent an electrical accident and injury. This procedure is known as a tagout or lockout, and it is a requirement of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A de-energized circuit has no voltage source, thus eliminating the risk of electrocution or shock.
The lockout or tagout method ensures that a de-energized circuit cannot be re-energized without the permission and knowledge of the person who established it. For a lockout, a lock is placed on the circuit control, thereby locking it into the off position. For a tagout, a tag is placed onto a device to indicate that it is de-energized.
When working around electrical equipment that cannot be de-energized, it is important to use specialized safety equipment, such as rubber matting, rubber gloves and ground cables. Electrical equipment and tools should be connected to a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI offers protection in the event that a faulty circuit develops in the equipment. All electrical equipment and protective gear should be inspected for wear or damage.
If a worker is injured or killed due to faulty electrical equipment, the injured party or family may be entitled to benefits. An attorney with a background in workers’ compensation law can evaluate a potential claim and help with the filing process.